bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Spotted by a friend of mine in Barrhaven, and posted with her permission:

Darth Vader lawn sign


Sep. 5th, 2015 12:59 am
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
In a couple of years, after the Hugo rules have been changed to prevent a repeat of this year's soiled newspapers, would it be feasible to do a set of 2015 retro-Hugos?
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Gimli: 'I don't wish to meet that old man at unawares without an argument ready to hand, that's all.  Let's go!'

Does that look wrong?  Or more precisely, sound wrong?

I enjoyed the audio book version of The Fellowship of the Ring quite a lot.  Reader Rob Inglis has a reasonable range of voices -- nowhere near Luke Daniels, who reads Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, but that's a very high bar.  So I expected to like his reading of The Two Towers.

But I keep getting thrown out of the story.  He keeps altering the text, including the dialogue, by using contractions.  Frequently.

By some lights I'm something of a purist with regard to Tolkien, no question.  I was lukewarm on Jackson's version of FotR, disliked TTT, and have seen only a few minutes of his RotK -- which was enough to confirm my decision to give it a miss.  I've seen most of the first Hobbit movie, at home for free while I was working on something, so it wasn't completely lost time.  That convinced me that Jackson has no sense with regard to sacrificing plot in favour of ludicrous action sequences.  I saw a few bits of the second Hobbit movie a couple of days ago, and that was enough; I was shrieking in laughter at the fight sequence with the Dwarves barrelling down the river, and the melting of the "gold" in Moria.  I don't know what that stuff was, but it wasn't gold.  Negligible specific heat and heat of fusion; low melting point.

But this audio book's problem is subtler... "just" contractions.  But Tolkien was very careful about character voice.  Some characters speak casually, some always formally, and some change their style of speech depending on circumstance.  To chuck that out is wrong; it significantly affects the characterization.  For Gimli to say "That's all.  Let's go!" just knots up my neck and shoulder muscles.  It's fingernails-on-blackboard stuff, full-on "uncanny valley", who-are-you-and-where-is-the-real-Gimli material.

bunsen_h: (Popperi)



Yar: What I want now is gentleness.  And joy... and love.  From you, Data; you are fully functional, aren't you?

Data: Of course, but...

Yar: How fully?

Data: In every way, of course.  I am programed in multiple techniques.  A broad variety of pleasuring.

Yar: Oh!  You jewel, that's exactly what I hoped!

Data: I have found that the articles in Cosmo vary little from month to month.

Yar: That's more than I wanted to know.  Get in here.

bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I met Terry Pratchett twice, I think.  The first time, after he'd autographed a couple of books for me, I asked him why Death had addressed Rincewind as "CULLY" in The Colour of Magic.  He seemed a bit surprised that I couldn't even make a good guess, then explained that it was approximately equivalent to "Bub".  This was before the Internet amounted to much.  I gather that other people have been confused about this over the years; it's one of the annotations in the L-Space page about TCoM.

We exchanged a couple of E-mail messages over the years.  Once, I tossed an idea at him: It's mentioned in a couple of places in the Discworld books that light slows down in a magical field, as it does in a material with a higher index of refraction.  Since Dunmanifestin, the home of the Discworld gods at the peak of Cori Celesti (the mountain at the Hub of the Disc) has an extremely high magical field, it would behave rather like a lens — it would produce an effect rather like gravitational lensing in our universe.  He replied that he liked the idea and might use it.  He never did, but there are any number of reasons why authors are wary of using other peoples' ideas.  (I seem to recall that one of the classic SF authors mentioned that extra ideas for a professional writer are somewhat like extra kittens on a farm... not a bad thing, as such, but there isn't a shortage of them.)

When I was writing my Ph.D. thesis, I decided that I'd follow the example of Don Knuth's The TEXBook and begin each chapter with a more-or-less relevant quotation.  Two were from Discworld books.  Although such brief excerpts are considered "fair use" for purposes of copyright, I contacted each of the authors to ask permission as well as to let them know that I'd enjoyed their work.  All, including (then-not-yet Sir) Terry, kindly gave their permission.  I started my Appendix section with a quotation from Sourcery, in which the Librarian is repairing some magical books:

The Librarian shook his head and jerked a pre­occupied thumb towards a tray of tools.

'Oook,' he commanded. Rincewind nodded miser­ably, and obediently handed him a pair of long-nosed scissors. The wizard winced as a couple of damaged pages were snipped free and dropped to the floor.

'What are you doing to it?' he managed.


'An appendectomy? Oh.'

In recent years, Sir Terry has been a strong advocate for legal assisted suicide, an issue that is finally beginning to get the attention and discussion that it deserves. But I'm glad that he was spared having to make that choice for himself; news reports say that he died at home, surrounded by his family, with his cat sleeping on his bed.

I'll miss his wit, his pointed humour.

At risk of mixing my metaphors to the point of misattribution:
-- 427 --

On suicide

Feb. 8th, 2015 03:08 pm
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
The good news is that the Canadian Supreme Court has decided — unanimously — that the current laws outright banning assisted suicide are unconstitutional.  Doctors should be able to assist suicide in specific situations.

This is important, I think.  Someone who's facing severe irremediable pain, untreatable dementia, and such should be able to end their life if they wish.  One of my aunts died of ALS a few years ago; it's not a good way to go.  The usual cause of death is respiratory depression, exacerbated by opiates needed to treat the pain caused by inability to move.  And if you haven't seen Terry Pratchett's documentary "Choosing To Die", I recommend it; it's moving and troubling.

The good news is that Pamela Dean and Patricia C. Wrede's Liavek stories are to be republished, along with one new story from each of them.  These include the stories about the Green priests, an order of suicides.  Their belief is that one's death should be a work of art, but not performed until after one has resolved all of one's commitments in life.  Again, I highly recommend their stories, and I'm looking forward to the collection.  (If anyone local to me hasn't read the Liavek books and would like to, please let me know; I'm happy to loan them.)

The bad news is that I've lost another friend.

Read more about Rob... )
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I just watched Peter Bloody Jackson's The Hobbit, splitting my attention with a bit of code work, which was probably for the best.

Good grief.  My mood kept swinging between "Ack!  That makes no sense!  Not even in context!" and outbursts of hilarious laughter at the total absurdity of what I was seeing.  I think that the Necromancer must have resurrected the spirit of Chuck Jones and enslaved him to resume his work at Warner.

ETA: On further reflection, I think it would work very nicely to remix that movie, replacing the current score with "Looney Tunes"-style music and sound effects.  Bilbo falls down, down, down that chasm... with the fading slide-whistle, bonk bonk bonk off the sides, and a distant "paf!" when he hits the bottom, just like the Coyote got in similar circumstances.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I've been dreaming about being on B5 for the last couple of nights.  It occurs to me that given the size of that place, it desperately needed some kind of horizontal transportation system other than the shuttle that ran near the axis.  Locations at "ground level" might be as much as a kilometer or so apart, or more.  It's not plausible that people would commute by taking an elevator up to the axis, then back down.

On a separate note: What is the interest rate on sleep debt?  :-(

Eat me

May. 20th, 2013 08:26 pm
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I have always been somewhat creeped out by commercials that feature animated food or animals urging people to eat them.  See also: Douglas Adams's "Dish of the Day", and Alice being introduced to Mutton and Plum Pudding on the other side of the Looking-Glass; not to mention Paul Gallico's charming children's book Manxmouse.

But recent commercials for M&Ms are even more troubling.  Red M&M doesn't want to be eaten, but people around him talk about eating him, start gnawing on him despite his objections, and eventually stuff him — kicking and yelling — into an oven.

In Larry Niven's World of Ptavvs, there's a line: "An intelligent food animal!  Hitler would have fled, retching."  I've always thought that Niven was a bit of an optimist on that point.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
My brain's "variables" — internal representations — for "heroic" and "awesome" and so forth are signed values.  Peter Jackson's are unsigned, so he gets to enjoy twice the level of awesomeness and heroicity that I do.  But when he cranks his movies up to the max, for me, the values wrap around to being negative.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I just thought about Gandalf trying to teach at some school of wizardry: "You shall not pass!"
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I just had an unpleasant thought: The eviction of "the Necromancer" (AKA Sauron) from his base in Mirkwood, in the Hobbit movie, is going to involve the wizards standing around, zapping the Evil Eyeball with their wands/staves.  Bleah.

ETA: "Expello maloculus!"

In harmony.

bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I am not a fan of Peter Jackson's work in Tolkien's mythos.

He changes things that don't need to be changed.  He adds action scenes that aren't internally consistent, nor consistent with the rest of the story; he removes thematic elements and chunks of plot that distinguish Tolkien's work from the generic extruded fantasy product of other writers.

Look, I don't object to his removing Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring, as such, though it did lead to a series of plot deviations based on the knives that the Hobbits (originally) took from the Barrow-Downs.  (Those changes could have been corrected early in the story, if Jackson had wanted to.)  Bombadil was somewhat incongruous in the original book.  And there's only so much time and complexity that can go into a popular movie (though Jackson could have refrained from adding some dramatic but incongruous action sequences).

I won't complain at all if the Elves of Rivendell aren't doing the "tra-la-la-lally" thing from Tolkien's The Hobbit.  It's cute in a children's book, but it's seriously weird when contrasted with the Elvish people of The Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit is notionally written by Bilbo, and he's an unreliable narrator — explicitly unreliable, with regard to his taking the Ring from Gollum.  And there's no way that Bilbo's claustrophobic wandering through the tunnels and caves under the Misty Mountains, in total darkness except for a dim glow from his sword and for the greenish glow of Gollum's eyes, could be portrayed in the movie medium.  I accept this; these changes are necessary.

But why do we have to have Gandalf telling Bilbo, in advance, that his sword Sting is of Elvish make and will glow blue when orcs and goblins are near?  Rather than letting Bilbo discover this for himself... and giving him just that little bit more to talk about to himself in the caves in the dark?

"You have to give an editor something to change, or he gets frustrated.  After he pees in it himself, he likes the flavor much better, so he buys it." — Jubal Harshaw, in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.  That's what I keep thinking about.

I haven't seen the movie, though I probably will after the initial rush has finished.  I've seen some promotional clips, and it seems to keep coming back to Jackson's need to change things that were perfectly fine in the first place, and probably better before the changes than after.
bunsen_h: (Default)
I'm about half way through John Scalzi's Redshirts (one of my recurring filk themes!) and it has just occurred to me that
Spoilers ahoy! )
bunsen_h: (Default)
In today's mail: a card advertising a luxury condo tower under construction on Cleary Avenue.  The description burbles with grammatical errors, but the really disquieting feature is the name of the builder: "CharlesFort".  This seems unlikely to end well even if no wombats appear.

Also: yet another brochure from Rogers addressed to "Neighbor / 18 Norice St".  Shouldn't that end up in the mailbox at either 16 Norice or 20 Norice?


Mar. 20th, 2010 12:59 pm
bunsen_h: (Default)
Re: a post by [livejournal.com profile] anghara , a question: What kind of LJ icon could be used to represent "SF convention", in the general sense? — not a specific convention, and ideally something specifically indicating "convention" rather than the more general "fandom".  It has to be an image which is understandable at 100x100 pixel resolution, of course.

I think that a picture of a condom, tagged with the acronym "CIAWOL", would probably give the wrong idea.  At least for the aspects of con-going that I focus on.  (I'm a bit surprised that "condom is a way of life" doesn't appear yet in Google.  It seems to be an obvious joke for some of those other conventions.)


May. 5th, 2007 10:35 am
bunsen_h: (Default)
I've recently been watching Battlestar Galactica, after a friend loaned me the DVDs.  I'm about half way through the first season, and I think I'm going to stop.
  • Poor prop and stage design.  The series is supposedly set some thousands of years in the future, at a time when Earth is only a legend.  But most of the props look like they were purchased from contemporary sources.  Maybe a 2005-style whiteboard is the most efficient conceivable way of displaying information quickly and informally on a wall, but would it have been that difficult to find or make a board, markers, and eraser that looked at least a bit different from current standard office equipment?  Why is the doctor smoking current-standard filter-tip cigarettes?  (Apart from the issue of his annoying his patients by doing so...)  The only props that seem to have had some stylistic evolution don't make sense for having done so.  The playing cards have weird glyphs.  All printed material -- papers, cards, books -- has large corners chopped off.  It looks silly.
  • Low tech.  A lot of the technology we see on the show isn't even up to real-life standards.  Telephone handsets are big and clunky.  MRI should be able to detect differences between Cylons and humans; they have different chemical compounds and different brain structures, and they've demonstrated greater strength and peculiar vulnerability to some form of radiation.  And it would be nice to think that sometime in those thousands of years, better tests and treatment for cancer would have been developed...
  • Plot inconsistencies.  In the pilot episode, a character was abandoned because (faked) tests showed that he was really a humaniform Cylon.  A few episodes later, much is made of the difficulties in coming up with such a test.  But it's never brought up that either those first tests could be extended, or if they could never really work, that that character should not have been left.  Oh, and that stuff about "there are only twelve models of Cylons, so we can instantly recognize someone as a Cylon once we know about that model"?  There's an ancient concept that I'd like to remind you about: "disguise"..?
  • Bad relationships.  We've seen some romantic/sexual relationships, in some detail.  All have been disastrously bad.  The flight instructor was involved with one of her trainees, gave him passing grades which he didn't deserve, and directly led to his death.  And there are no fewer than three female humaniform Cylons who have been seducing human males -- the sadistic relationship between "Number Six" and Baltar really makes me twitch.
  • The Plan.  We keep being told that the Cylons "have a plan".  But if so, it seems to be baroque, and it doesn't seem to be intended to wipe out humanity so much as to cruelly toy with humans.  Given that the Cylons have already effectively infiltrated the fleet, and have superior technology in pretty much every respect (and why have they used nuclear weapons and conventional explosives etc. rather than an engineered plague or two?), if they wanted humans gone, humans would be history.  But I don't get any sense that there really is a more complex goal, and the characters don't seem to be thinking along the lines of "what are they really after?".

The show is probably not worse than, say, Star Trek or Doctor Who.  But it's also pretty much completely lacking any sense of joy or fun -- perhaps unsurprising, given the plot, but there's very little positive stuff even in small details.

Bottom line: I'm not enjoying it very much, so I'm going to find other ways of spending my time.

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